October 21, 2021

Russian Souvenir Shopping: From Matrioshka Dolls to McLenin’s T-Shirts

Your trip to Russia might be a once-in-a-lifetimer, and it’s nice to remember the zany domes of St Basil’s Cathedral or the freeze of Vladivostok through more than just photographs. A souvenir reminder of a memorable trip really can be more meaningful than a dust-collector.

Traditional Souvenirs

One of the nicest things about many parts of Russia is that they haven’t yet been overwhelmed with the “My mother-in-law went to Russia and all I got was this lousy T-shirt” style souvenirs. Local, long-practiced Russian handicrafts are often the most appropriate souvenirs. Matrioshka dolls, hand-painted wooden dolls which stack inside each other, are a well-recognized symbol of Russia, and are available everywhere. The painted fronts range from traditional delicately-colored dolls through pictures of famous cathedrals or even politicians – and it’s even possible to get a matrioshka doll set of your own family made up!

Russian lacquer boxes are another hit. Prices range according to quality, and high prices belong to those particularly delicately painted samples which must have taken many hours of painstaking work. Motifs include famous places around Russia or scenes from well-known Russian fairytales.

Practical Souvenirs

One of my first – and still most vivid – memories of Russia was walking into my host’s apartment in Vladivostok and being overwhelmed by the quantity and weight of fur coats and hats adorning her coat racks. A genuine Russian fur hat is not only a good memory but can be something you can use again (unless, like me, you’re from Australia!). A prettily-patterned babushka scarf is another option. Russian ceramics and porcelains are also often especially beautiful, and can be put to practical use back home.

Souvenirs for Fun

T-shirts are always something you can use and you can be reminded of a wonderful trip every time you pull it out of your cupboard. Aeroflot shirts or my personal favorite, the McLenin’s T-shirt, are good ways to remember the different aspects of modern Russian society. They’re easier to find in Moscow and St Petersburg than in smaller towns.

Other interesting souvenirs feature Soviet-era propaganda and another personal favorite: a hammer and sickle watch which tells the time with Lenin’s head moving around the clockface.

Whatever you decide to take home with you from Russia, try not to buy your matrioshka dolls or Russian fur hats in a big tourist market or a shop where all the tour buses are led. Get off the main streets a little, try to speak to some locals, and get an interesting story to go along with your interesting Russian souvenir.

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